Dracula II: Ascension (2002)

When a coroner brings in a charred body, he and a doctor named Elizabeth discover that the body is that of Dracula. When they get a mysterious offer from a buyer who will offer them millions of dollars for his body, they and a group of college students decide to take it upon themselves to discover what makes Dracula immortal while hoping to extract the evil from within the essence but when Dracula becomes too hot to handle, a mysterious knife wielding priest is on the hunt for them and will stop at nothing to take Dracula down.

I liked “Dracula 2000”; despite being basically panned by horror fans and critics alike, speaking as a hardcore horror fan, I felt it was basically an entertaining experience with some really hot chicks like Jennifer Esposito and Geri Ryan to glance at. Gerard Butler despite being given little to do as Dracula was basically memorable, so it’d be understandable why, after such a fun movie, I’d be skeptical about a straight to video sequel to a movie that was just entertaining but hardly influential. Aside from the fact that none of the film’s original cast members arrive to the sequel, there are some actual likable qualities to this film. Stephen Billington plays a completely different looking Dracula this time around who sports a blonde Billy Idol resembling coif, but manages to become very effective and a bit more charismatic than Butler as Dracula.

The scenes where he’s strapped to the table while the carnage ensues around him is truly engrossing and effective as the audience gets to understand how much of a psychological and dramatic influence Dracula can have on people around him despite not being completely mobile. The make-up effects for the character are truly good and Dracula actually manages to come off as a threatening savage being rather than a Playgirl model like the first one. His scenes where he stares at the characters and peers into them basically driving them against each other are very eerie and improves his presence among the story. The film manages to pull off the atmosphere intended for this brand of vampire film, and despite being completely inept in his approach towards directing a vampire film, director Scott Lussier gets most of the shots right. There are some very cool and memorable scenes in the climax when it’s become evident Dracula has been toying with everyone.

It’s noted in vampire texts that vampire have the compulsive need to count and untangle things, and it’s a great plot element addition, and it’s truly incredible when we watch London’s character attempt to stumble Dracula with a net and seeds which Dracula dispenses of with ease. Jason Scott Lee and Jason London despite being given barely anything to do manage to make use of their roles and become some of the most likable presences during the film. Don’t believe the hype; whenever a movie is presented by a famous horror director or institution, there’s a good chance the film won’t be any good, ala “Wes Craven present’s Dracula 2000” or “Fangoria presents I, Zombie” and there’s a good chance they didn’t even view the film. “Dracula II: Ascension”, a direct direct-to-video sequel to the cheesy yet entertaining horror film “Dracula 2000”, the credits begin with what? “Wes Craven presents” in big red bold letters. Did Wes Craven even watch this film? There’s a good chance he didn’t because why would a man who’s directed major horror films like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” find this even the slightest bit at his level?

Studios probably pay directors to add their names to these projects that are below what you might call “Quality horror” if there’s even such a thing anymore. The film has a good formula, a group of people decide to play god and think they can A. control Dracula and B. discover what makes Dracula immortal. Foolish idea to say the least, but Dracula isn’t played by the magnetic and kick-ass Gerard Butler, instead he’s played by a Billy Idol coiffure sporting Steven Billington who doesn’t do that bad a job, but nonetheless you have to wonder why he’s sporting long curly hair in the first and short blonde hair in the second, but never fear, as Roy Scheider explains (in a wasteful terrible cameo) that Dracula changes form with every resurrection. Oh! That would explain why he looks like Bela Lugosi in some films and Christopher Lee and Frank Langella in others, that’s odd seeing as there’s no such a rule applied in textbooks regarding Dracula and his powers, but hey let’s all make it up while we go along, huh folks?

Second of all, the first film’s storyline is disconnected and every cast member is gone (Gee, I wonder why). This second film has no characters to root for and the main pivotal characters are too bland to even care about. There’s your usual cast of annoying cookie cutter characters as are featured in these horror films. There’s your token minority character who spouts bad slang and sells drugs, the kinky dispensable blonde girl, the wide-eyed whiny virgin chick, the older growling mentor played with the scenery chewing Craig Scheffer, and the dysfunctional hero ala Jason London who takes it upon himself to discover different techniques to fight Dracula when it’s never really established why. Jason Scott Lee has a sweet but tedious role as a knife wielding vampire fighting priest who always appears at the right time when a vampire appears or when a person is about to become vamp food.

He walks around, seemingly without a car, in a large black trench coat and spouts out cheesy one-liners to vampires who reflect his with their own cheesy one-liners. At one point Lee’s character rips off “The Crow” and says “You picked the wrong day to become a vampire.” Ah, you picked the wrong “Day”, oops, I smell an error. Bah, but that doesn’t matter because there’s not much material to enjoy in this clunker. Khary Payton attempts to chew up the scenery with his horrible character Kenny who does nothing but spray machismo essence all over the film and deliver his lines with poor timing. Nonetheless, the entire film wastes what very little potential it has and becomes a poor sequel to a poor film. While it’s entertaining and interesting it’s also a hackneyed, cheesy, and a sub-par sequel effort to a sub-par guilty pleasure that wasn’t even worth gaining another film to it’s title.